29 May, 2016

Constant distractions

I get extremely fidgety at this time of year. Leaves have burst back onto trees, and everywhere looks that little bit more superb because of it. If I'm not outside, I'm worrying about the insects I could be missing, and when I am outside I don't know which direction to turn. It usually culminates in many hours spent bashing or sweeping every square metre of vegetation, without actually covering much ground.

Apparently, according to friends and family, this doesn't always make me a very good walking partner. Whilst they want to work up a sweat, I want to find as much wildlife as possible. Give me a nice patch of woodland or grassland - no matter how small - and I can quite easily keep myself occupied for a day.

With this in mind, I made sure not to let anyone join me (not that anyone actually wanted to) on an evening foray around the village of Hallow last week. I stumbled across a tennis court sized patch of rough grassland opposite a sewage treatment plant and spent three hours recording things, ending up with my highest daylight search tally for the year of 31 moth species. There was such a diverse range of micro-moths flying that it would be hard to pick a highlight, but I was particularly chuffed to stumble across a small population of Dichrorampha sequana - an intricately pattered moth with a very comical snout.

 Dichrorampha sequana

 Aspilapteryx tringipennella

 Micropterix aruncella

 Coleophora trifolii

 Pammene rhediella

 Glyphipterix fuscoviridella

 Notocelia uddmanniana - leaf spinning on bramble created by the larva

 Tipula fascipennis

 Rhabdomiris striatellus

Rhingia campestris

22 May, 2016

Saying goodbye

Green-winged Orchid

I finished my degree as an undergraduate last Wednesday with a two hour exam on the subject of 'behavioural ecology' - whatever that is. It's a hefty relief to be able to say goodbye to the workload that comes with a degree, but it's also going to be a somber goodbye to the city that has become my second home over the past three years, and to all the great people with whom I've shared the uni journey.

I've already said goodbye to my job at Tesco, effectively freeing up my weekends to be able to make the most of the Worcestershire countryside before our student house contract runs out at the end of June. One of my housemates bought a car on Thursday, and we've christened it with numerous trips to two of Worcestershire Wildlife Trust's flagship reserves; the Knapp & Papermill and Monkwood...

Grass Rivulet

Small Yellow Underwing

 Drab Looper

Micropterix mansuetella

Cercopis vulnerata


18 May, 2016

Isabella Plantation

The Isabella Plantation, an ornamental woodland garden set within Richmond Park, packed full of exotic trees and colourful shrubs from the other side of the world, isn't the first place you might expect to find me looking for moths.

It's significance to me is more one of sentiment. In times long past, Richmond Park was always the top location choice for a family picnic, and all the youngsters would usually end up in the Isabella Plantation; feeding oversized chunks of bread to Mandarins, rolling around in mud or playing cowboys and indians among the Rhododendron bushes - we were 19 years old.

My Dad and I returned to the Plantation for a stroll last Wednesday, whilst having a brief catch-up in London. Being back there for the first time in many years felt unusual, not least because I now carried a butterfly net in hand, and judged every woodland glade based on their entomological value. Alas, I haven't really grown (or matured!) much since then, but the Rhododendron bushes certainly looked a lot less like potential armed fortresses than they would have done to 10 year old me.

In terms of moths, every other birch sapling held the leaf mines of Eriocrania semipurpurella, and I managed to tap Pammene splendidulana off a big veteran oak - a tortrix I have little previous experience with that took a bit of head scratching before finally coming to a correct identification.

Pammene splendidulana

Eriocrania semipurpurella

07 May, 2016

Biodiversifying at Grimley

I was at Grimley yesterday, hoping to time my visit with the annual spring wader influx that (sometimes) reaches this far up the Severn. A stunning summer plumage Dunlin was feeding along the northern shoreline, but as the day went on it was clear that the majority of wader passage was happening south of Worcester, with five Whimbrels at Ripple Pits and a pair of Wood Sandpiper at Clifton.

I diverted my attention to day flying moths, of which there should be swarms in this kind of weather. In reality though, a single Esperia sulphurella disturbed from dead wood, and a couple of Incurvaria masculella amongst the hedgerows, were the only things flying. Megatoma undulata - a scarce beetle on dead wood - was nice to see, and Dyseriocrania subpurpurella mines are starting to appear on fresh oak leaves.

 Esperia sulphurella

Megatoma undulata

Dyseriocrania subpurpurella

04 May, 2016

Perks of procrastination

Yesterday I finally submitted my dissertation, marking the beginning of the end of my time at university - just an exam to struggle through in two weeks time and then it's all over! The past couple of months worth of dissertation writing have been fairly smooth sailing, but the assignment itself would never have been completed without a lot of procrastination.

Most of that procrastination has materialised in the form of entering records into the National Moth Recording Scheme's online database, to a point where I have now caught up with my massive backlog of data stretching back to summer 2013!

Last week I received an email from Alan Skeates, the vice county recorder for Mull, letting me know that my record of Cochylis nana was a first for the island. Considering how few people actively search for micro-moths on Mull, this didn't come as a surprise. It sounds a greedy, but given how under-recorded the island is, I had hoped that a few more of my records would be island 'firsts'. I think a return visit is definitely on the cards!

 Cochylis nana - the first record for Mull

 Epinotia bilunana - the second record for Mull

 Phyllonorycter ulmifoliella - the second record for Mull

The above three moths were found in this small patch of wind-sculpted birch wood on the south-west coast of Mull - one of the most eerily beautiful places I've ever found myself searching for wildlife.

24 April, 2016

In awe

A chilly Sunday afternoon's birding at Grimley gave me a chance to have a nice catch up with some of the regular patch workers, Jason Kernohan (formerly Shenstone Birder) and Mike Bourne, whom I hadn't bumped into in a while.

There was nothing of any particular rarity to be found on the pits, but with Sand Martins flitting about in every possible space of air over the water, Lapwings guarding chicks in the meadows and Yellow Wagtails catching flies along the shoreline, you'd have to be one stale piece of work not to completely awed by it all. I'll let the photos do the rest of the talking.

Cuteness overload!


Little Egret & Great Crested Grebe

A Sand Martin being emotional

The Nature of Wyre

The Nature of Wyre is a stunning 300 page hardback documenting the natural history of arguably the finest and most biodiverse example of ancient woodland remaining in England; the culmination of many years worth of recording by expert naturalists across Worcestershire. I've had this one on my wish list since it was published back in December, but last week I finally went ahead and added it to the bookshelf.

Pages and pages worth insect, plant, lichen and fungi species accounts will prove a worthy addition to any wildlife enthusiast/pan-species lister's bookshelf, and you don't need any prior knowledge of the forest to be able to appreciate sublime photography from John Robinson, Patrick Clements, Oliver Wadsworth and John Bingham to name but a few. The £40 price tag is a minor niggle, but then what else would I have realistically spent that money on? Food shopping? Gas bills? Course fees? Probably, but those things are boring.

I've only visited the Wyre on two occasions - the first time for a bryophyte survey and the second for a moth trapping session, but it has already won me over. I'll be visiting the forest again as part of my last ever lecture (yes, last EVER lecture) next Thursday, and once I officially finish uni (yes, FINISH university) on 18th May following my final exam (yes, FINAL exam), I'll have plenty of time in early summer to make repeated trips (yes, REPEATE- sorry, I'll stop now) before my house contract in Worcester runs out.

Blimey! Get me finishing uni. Where has the time gone? It really does seem like only last week that I posted in anticipation of starting it all back in 2013, and what a fantastic experience it has been. Better stop writing now before this gets too cheesy and emotional.

Erm... but yeah, where was I? The Nature of Wyre. Well worth a buy. 

19 April, 2016

Surveys in the city

Back in February, myself and a couple of other students teamed up with a local conservation charity, Duckworth Worcestershire Trust, to bring more ecological surveying opportunities to students at the university.

Fast-forward to yesterday and we finally found an opportunity to take over the reigns of their BTO surveys at Chapter Meadows, a small nature reserve situated just opposite Worcester Cathedral on the opposite bank of the Severn.

Looking back at the Trust's previous surveys on the reserve (or rather lack of them), I wasn't too optimistic that we'd find much, but I was soon proved wrong when a Lesser Whitethroat popped up from a hedgerow almost as soon as we opened the gate! A pair of Bullfinch flew over, giving off their sombre call as they went, but the star of the survey was a beautiful male Redstart that spent 10 minutes catching flies in a playing field alongside the river. It's always nice to see passage migrants in such urban settings - just a shame when all you have to take a photo with is a macro lens:


Common Bladder-moss Physcomitrium pyriforme

Cellar Cup Peziza sp.

17 April, 2016

Mothing... flat out

I spent the duration of this evening at one of my favourite local spots - a small, isolated patch of deciduous woodland out towards Powick. I'm not sure who owns it (or even if it is owned) but the secluded nature of the woodland - situated at the bottom of a damp meadow and bordered on all sides by expansive arable fields - means that it gets little footfall from the public (or at least that's what I like to tell myself).

The ground flora is typical of semi-natural woodland at this time of year, with Wood Anemones and Bluebells forming a carpet of colour through which I carefully trod in search of invertebrates. There wasn't a huge amount going on in terms of moth activity, but I did tap these two vibrant characters from their daytime roost on an oak tree branch.

Caloptilia robustella

Dyseriocrania subpurpurella


Despite being 'local', it still takes a good 15 minutes to cycle to the wood. Unfortunately, I returned to my bike to find I'd picked up a nasty puncture on the way over, meaning a long and sobering walk home along the busy main road. On the plus side, it gave me my first cringy blog post title pun in a long while!